Monthly Archives: February 2013

Danica Patrick: Not just a pretty face


The Daytona 500 kicks off the NASCAR Sprint Cup season every year and, unlike most sports, it has the biggest event of the year as its first.

Every year there are good storylines coming into the race, such as drivers changing teams and new rule changes. However, this year was like no other as, for the first time, a woman sat on the pole for the historic race.

Danica Patrick has often been criticized for receiving a ride based on things other than her driving ability and her results to date have been shaky at best. That criticism, however, has slowed down some after Patrick not only won the pole, but also had a strong showing in the “Great American Race”.

Patrick finished eighth, but ran in the top five for much of the race. She became the highest finishing female in the Daytona 500 history with her eight place run.

Prior to the race I, for one, thought too much attention was being paid to Patrick. I understand the historical implications of the situation, but she had not proven herself to deserve as much attention as she was getting.

Watching the race, some may have thought, “OK, she has run well, but when is she going to crash? She always crashes.” That has been her downfall.

But on Sunday, she proved her critics wrong by not crashing and finishing well.

She also proved she’s not just a pretty face and she can run with the men.

Media overanalyzes 40-Yard Dash times at NFL Combine


The NFL Combine is an annual event that brings with it a great amount of media attention.

One of the most talked about events of the Combine is the 40-yard dash. Each player has two attempts to get timed running 40 yards, and the times usually fall into the 4.3-5+ second range. The times are scrutinized heavily, as the difference between a time of 4.6 and 4.7 can be the difference between being a second-or third-round draft pick.

The infamous Manti Te’o was heavily criticized for his time. His “Catfish” story is beginning to die down, but as the draft approaches, it seems like there are still those who do not want to see him succeed.

Te’o ran his 40-yard dash in 4.82 seconds. This seems like a great time on paper, but he is surprisingly drawing criticism for this performance from the media. Chicago Tribune writer Dan Pompei wrote an article titled, “Te’o disappoints with 40-yard dash times.”

Speed is important, but it cannot determine the heart of a player, or the will to win. It does not account for the intelligence of a player, or how he will handle certain game situations.

It is time to stop overanalyzing small, trivial aspects of these men and focus on what matters, which is their performance on the field. Unfortunately, some members of the media forget about this, and nothing will change until these players are on the field for their NFL teams.

ESPN celebrates ‘Danica 500’ and ignores Rousey


This past weekend was a historic weekend for women’s sports as NASCAR driver Danica Patrick and UFC fighter Ronda Rousey both took center stage. It was a weekend in which sports media latched on to the historic female storyline.

ESPN began its NASCAR coverage in a “Sunday Conversation” interview with Patrick within 24 hours of her Daytona 500 pole win. Patrick continued to dominate ESPN coverage throughout the week. It felt like ESPN was covering the “Danica 500” rather than the Daytona 500.

Meanwhile, ESPN seemed to ignore fighter Ronda Rousey. Rousey and Liz Carmouche became the first female fighters to compete in UFC history. For years, women’s MMA has been reduced to sideshows on local and regional promotions. But Rousey had the “it” factor to allow women’s MMA to be taken seriously. However, because ESPN does not have TV rights for the UFC (Fox has a 7-year deal with UFC), ESPN felt little need to cover Rousey’s fight.

Rousey and Patrick are both mainstream stars, but if ESPN had it their way, Rousey would have never even existed. ESPN offered only 30 seconds of Rousey’s fight coverage. That’s right, 30 seconds.

ESPN’s coverage selection draws on an even bigger issue in sport. Does ESPN really care about the rise of women’s sports, or is it just a marketing ploy to benefit their outlets? ESPN covered Patrick’s race, but not Rousey’s fight because it was on another network. Sports fans should hope for competition from other networks to end ESPN’s monopoly on sports.

There are rumors of a Fox Sports 1, but those rumors say the network won’t be launched until August. Until then, Americans are stuck with ESPN and its interpretation of which athletes should make history.

On a weekend where women’s sports should be celebrated, instead we must focus on the agenda of mainstream media. Both of these ladies have earned the spotlight this weekend, however only one of the athletes got the fair treatment she deserved.

Media handles Buss death with respect


In the midst of the Lakers’ disappointing season, the team took a loss off the court with the passing of long-time owner, Dr. Jerry Buss. Dr. Buss was an innovator and game-changer for not only the Lakers but the NBA and the city of Los Angeles as well. If it was not for his vision and great business mind, the Lakers franchise would not have the prestige it does today.

With Dr. Buss’ passing, there are a lot of general questions about the team. Obviously, it is the media’s job to seek the answers to these questions and report them to the public. With that in mind, the media has been very polite and understanding while trying to get a feel for what’s next for the Lakers and the Buss family.

On the emotional day of Dr. Buss’ death, a press conference was held with the Buss family speaker where he was asked questions about the future of the team and their ownership. In situations like these, there is always a possibility a reporter will ask an unnecessary or disrespectful question, but no one did. None of the reporters heckled the speaker in any way; when he ended a sentence with: “That is all I am going to say at this time,” reporters moved on to the next question. In addition, there were a couple of questions asked about Dr. Buss’ personality and great memories, which created a positive feel to the press conference.

Since the day of his death, there has been nothing but positive media coverage on Dr. Buss’ accomplishments. The best moment came during the pregame show for the Lakers v. Celtics game, two days after the passing. There was a short speech given by Kobe Bryant at Staples Center, followed by a moment of silence with a spotlight on the seat where he used to sit and watch every game. After the moment of silence, ESPN went back to the studio and there was an emotional and brief statement made by Magic Johnson where he expressed his love and appreciation for Dr. Buss.

The level of respect this situation has been shown is tremendous and the media’s coverage has been nothing but positive. ESPN and all the other media outlets that have covered this tragedy have done a great job giving Buss and his family the respect they deserve.

North Dakota Announcer Suspended


The University of North Dakota’s overtime loss to Northern Arizona was no doubt upsetting to players and fans alike. Play-by-play radio announcer Paul Ralston, however, was apparently very upset by the game.

In an interview with North Dakota’s coach, Brian Jones, after the game, Ralston referred to the loss as a “choke job.” This phrase clearly upset North Dakota’s Athletic Department, which suspended Ralston for two games. The incident was featured on almost every major news outlet including ESPN, CBS, and Yahoo Sports.

To many people, it may not seem like a big deal. After all, we have heard much worse. I think one of the main factors in the decision to suspend Ralston was because his comment was made directly to the coach. Jones, however, did not seem fazed by it. He talked about how his team let the game slip away.

Many bloggers and Twitter users have commented that the suspension seems a bit excessive. While I tend to agree, I also respect North Dakota’s decision. Ralston blatantly disrespected Jones, a fellow employee of the school, to his face. While it is Ralston’s job to report honestly about the game, he definitely crossed a line.

In the wake of the Brent Musburger incident, it is evident announcers are being watched closer than ever. It raises the question of how much freedom of speech announcers have. There seems to be a struggle for some announcers to report the game fairly and keep the audience entertained without offending someone. All the media incidents as of late will only increase scrutiny on announcers’ commentaries.

Lousy NBA Slam Dunk Contest given life by commentators


The NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest went from Jordan/Wilkins in the 80s, to Vinsanity (Vince Carter) in 2000, to Ross/Evans in 2013. I doubt many even knew of Terrence Ross or Jeremy Evans prior to this year’s Slam Dunk Contest.

The contest, by many standards was a snoozer. But the TNT crew of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Shaq, and Kevin Harlan managed to make it entertaining.

The broadcast team took a “tell it like it is” approach to their telecast. Barkley and Shaq routinely noted the lack of playing time the players involved get on their respective teams. Some may argue it took away from these players’ moment of glory, but the comedy used in their commentary kept viewers watching. Barkley mocked comedian Kevin Hart, the attire worn by high-ups, and asked his TNT bosses to pay LeBron James to be in next year’s contest. The commentators understood their viewers did not want serious basketball talk all the time and let their personalities shine.

The TNT crew did their best to entertain their audience and tried to treat the event like a big deal. But, no matter how well an event is covered, if the event itself is crap, then it’s still crap.

Behind the Scenes at Super Bowl XLVII: Direct TV Celebrity Beach Bowl Orleans


The Super Bowl comes around once a year and showcases two of the best teams in the NFL. Most of America watches the game, but many don’t realize there are many ancillary events that happen before the actual game takes place. One of those events is the Direct TV Celebrity Beach Bowl. This event involves a flag football game in the sand between former NFL players, celebrities, actors, musicians and other athletes.

Being able to experience this event first hand is something I won’t forget. With celebrities all around like Desmond Howard, Eddie George and Shawn Johnson, it would have been easy to get overwhelmed. But for us, eight Sport Management students from BGSU, it was just another day helping out in New Orleans. It was our duty to make sure the celebrities stayed on time.

This event started off with a red carpet walk where the celebrities would talk to various people from different media stations. After the red carpet, the celebrities moved to a gifting tent where many businesses were offering up their products. The celebrities were then told to wait around in a lounging area where they talked and ate food provided for them.

The game itself consisted of four quarters of fun flag football, where the celebrities showed off their skills. Warren Moon and Deion Sanders shined in the game, while the other players were more concerned with having a good time. This event is a fan favorite for people who witness it live and more than 10,000 people showed up to watch this event. After the game was over there was a Pitbull concert and a Justin Timberlake party at night.

With so many events going on in one day we got to see what it was like to manage an event of this magnitude. We also saw how quickly an area can be transformed from a flag football game in the sand to a pop concert.

Braves Ban “Screaming Indian” Hat


In December, the batting practice caps for  MLB teams were unveiled on the website Uni Watch. Most teams did simple variations on their logos and colors, but the Atlanta Braves’ new logo caused some controversy. The team chose to feature a “screaming Indian,” which many people felt was offensive to Native Americans.

This logo was retired in 1989, along with mascot “Chief Noc-a-Homa,” who wore traditional Native American tribal dress and paint. It is unclear what made the Braves want to bring back the logo, but they have since changed their position. After two months of controversy, the Braves announced they will use the traditional Atlanta “A,” rather than the Native American caricature.

Many members of the media spoke out in support of the Brave’s decision including national baseball writer, Craig Calcaterra. He wrote, “We’ll never know if public pressure and the negative reaction following the leak of the other design had anything to do with the choice, but it’s good to see that the Braves made the right choice.”

While this may be a step in the right direction, there are still many issues surrounding the use of Native American names and caricatures in sports. The Cleveland Indians are a team frequently in hot water for their mascot. They recently released new merchandise with an old logo of Chief Wahoo featuring a stereotypical Native American image with a large hooked noise and feathers.

The Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, and Chicago Blackhawks are just a few more examples of schools that use Native American mascots and logos. There has been debate over renaming these teams for many years, but so far no action has been taken. The one exception is the Florida State Seminoles, who were given permission by the Seminole Tribe to use their name.

The Atlanta Braves made the right decision, and it will be interesting to see if their decision will start a trend. There is no reason to disrespect a group of people by using offensive logos and mocking their traditions.

#SMAtoNOLA – Super Bowl NFL Experience


There is nothing like the experience of Super Bowl weekend. I believe I speak for myself, and the rest of the group who made the 14-hour road trip, when I say that being a part of one of the biggest events in sports was the opportunity of a lifetime. We not only got to enjoy the exciting environment of New Orleans but also gained the experience of assisting with the operations of large-scale NFL affiliated events. One of those events was the NFL Experience.

The NFL Experience is by far one of the most exciting events surrounding the Super Bowl every year. It is simply an indoor fan fest filled with numerous interactive games, displays, and other attractions. The games give fans the opportunity to experience all facets of football, including drills that incorporate skills such as passing accuracy and the 40-yard dash. Some of the other big attractions were the autograph table that included big names such as Barry Sanders and Joe Montana, and the massive memorabilia show.

Our job during the NFL Experience was to help run a couple different games. Half of our group ran a game where they controlled a jugs football machine that passed the balls to fans after running through obstacles. The other half of us ran a game called “Extra Point Kick.” Fans had the opportunity to kick an extra point from 10, 20, 30, or 40 yards away. There were actually multiple people who moved the ball back to about 50 yards and nailed it. As one of the thousands who went to the NFL Experience for Super Bowl 40 in Detroit, it was a very fun experience being on the other side and helping run the event. Overall, the event ran smoothly and fans were definitely enjoying themselves. 

In general, the whole weekend seemed to run in the same fashion. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience from start to finish and could not have asked for a better weekend dedicated to volunteering. Between seeing over 70 notable figures (e.g. Pat Riley, Snoop Lion, Eli and Peyton Manning, and Joe Theisman), getting first hand experience with the operation of a large scale sporting event, and seeing New Orleans for the first time, this was a weekend I will never forget. 

If it wasn’t for the BGSU Sport Management Alliance and the faculty involved with the organization, I would have never had this great opportunity and for that I am very thankful to everyone who made it possible.

The Role of Women in the CBS Broadcast of Super Bowl XLVII


Following the uproar over Brent Musburger’s on-air comments during ESPN’s coverage of the BCS National championship game about Katherine Webb, the Alabama quarterback’s girlfriend, I was curious to see whether or not there would be a ripple effect in subsequent television coverage of football games. During the CBS coverage of Super Bowl XLVII from New Orleans, I examined which women appeared on air, how they were dressed, and what roles women played during the broadcast. From a feminist sport criticism perspective, I wanted to know whether the women present during the broadcast were positively contributing to the program or were merely there as “eye candy” for the viewing pleasure of the male audience.

I. Family members/supporters

Mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters of players and coaches appeared during the game and the broadcast leading to the main event. Several behind-the-scenes stories about football players included interviews with mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters. In this role, three women stood out: Candace Brigance (wife of former Ravens player OJ Brigance who has become his primary caretaker while he battles ALS), Jackie Harbaugh (mother of Jim and John Harbaugh, the head coaches of the opposing teams participating in the Super Bowl), and John Harbaugh’s daughter Alison. The coach and his daughter stood together on the sidelines during the national anthem, both with their right hands over their hearts. She was dressed in a white t-shirt with a purple long sleeve shirt underneath. Under both of her eyes, she had “eye black” just like the players often wear to reduce glare. Women are often portrayed on television as nurturers and emotional supporters in both life and sports.

II. Entertainers

Cheerleaders, singers, musicians, and dancers added to the entertainment value of the broadcast. As the players from both teams entered the stadium prior to the kick-off, cheerleaders were among those welcoming them to the field. The Ravens cheerleaders wore white crop tops, short white skirts, and white tennis shoes while the San Francisco cheerleaders wore red bikini tops, short white skirts, and tall white boots. During each team’s entrance to the field, the cheerleading squad was positioned on the periphery of those gathered to greet the players. Oftentimes television producers of football games include a shot of the cheerleaders when the broadcast goes to or returns from a commercial break. Throughout the remainder of the CBS broadcast, the cheerleaders were never featured on air. There were no close-ups of the cheerleaders dancing, kicking, or waving their pompons. The cheerleaders were not a primary form of entertainment for the television audience as much as they were for the audience in attendance at the game.

The Super Bowl broadcast featured a trio of female singers. Jennifer Hudson and students from Sandy Hook Elementary School sang, “America.” Alicia Keys sang “The Star Spangled Banner” while accompanying herself on piano. The musical highlight was Beyonce’s performance during the half-time show. Interestingly, all three main female performers are of African-American heritage. Each dressed in a distinctive style. Hudson wore a tight-fitting, black, leather-like shirt with long sleeves and a turtle neck collar. Her skirt was white and knee-length with two vertical lines of small black buttons down the front, reminiscent of a soldier’s uniform. Classy with a hint of patriotism. With this she wore high heel shoes, a green Sandy Hook ribbon, and small earrings. Much of her body was concealed and yet the fit of her clothing seemed to accentuate her curvy body. I wondered how much input she had in her fashion choice and whether her struggles with her weight influenced her outfit that covered most of her body. For her performance of the national anthem, Alicia Keys wore a sporty-looking, full-length, maroon gown. She chose small earrings and a short necklace as her accessories. Her clothing choice reminded me of someone performing at a classical music concert, and yet the bodice of the gown was shaped like a sports bra showing off her shapely arms. Classy with a hint of sporty. Finally, Beyonce’s music, clothing, and dancing set her apart from the other female entertainers. Her wardrobe choice looked like a piece of leather lingerie fully exposing her hips featuring a neckline that plunged past her bosom and down to her waistline. To this Beyonce added long, black leather, finger-less gloves; black fishnet nylons; and long, black, leather boots with high heels. To add a feminine touch, she added a black, lacey, see-through skirt around her waist and hips. During her high-octane singing and dancing, she gyrated and thrusted her hips all over the stage. All of her back-up singers and musicians were women whose costumes were primarily in black and similar in style to the lead singer. Following the half-time performance, the CBS Super Bowl commentators made no reference to Beyonce, her wardrobe, or her performance. However, the following day on the Morning Express show on the HLN channel, Carlos Diaz commented that all of the performers during the Super Bowl half-time show were women, that no men were needed, and what a powerful statement that is for young women everywhere. I applaud the notion that women can perform musical and dance numbers without the assistance of men, but I question whether young girls should emulate this scantily clad, leather teddy-wearing, hip-gyrating entertainer.

III. Reporters 

Over the years many women have been on-air commentators for CBS Sports starting with Phyllis George who in 1975 co-hosted CBS’s live NFL pregame show. Lesley Visser began her career with CBS Sports in 1983 with a few feature pieces and later served as a reporter for numerous sporting events on CBS. In 1990 became the first woman to cover the World Series. She joined the NFL Today show in 1990 and became the first female sportscaster to handle the Super Bowl trophy presentation in 1992. She eventually became one of the first women to provide color commentary of NFL games when in 2000 she joined the CBS Radio Sports group. Since then she has provided pre-game and sideline reports during CBS’s coverage of various Super Bowls. During the 2013 Super Bowl, Visser appeared only once during the Super Bowl broadcast. She introduced a pre-recorded piece on former Ravens player OJ Brigance and his battle with ALS. Visser was standing on the sidelines of the field wearing a green, sleeveless dress with a plunging neckline along with a beaded necklace. Visser, who will turn 60 this year, seemed cold and uncomfortable in the dress as it exposed her arms. She seemed to be hiding one of her arms behind her back, she shifted her weight, and her voice wavered which made it appear that she was uncomfortable and unsure of herself. During previous Super Bowl appearances, she wore suit coats and winter jackets. With all of her talent, experience, and knowledge of the sport, it was disappointing to see that her role was to introduce a pre-recorded video featuring an emotional personal story related to the sport. Women are often equated to emotions, and thus female TV personalities are often relegated to these touchy-feely stories.

The other female sportscaster who appeared on the CBS broadcast of the Super Bowl was Tracy Wolfson. She wore a bright yellow shirt with a black suit coat. Like Visser, Wolfson introduced a few personal stories, but she also provided some game-related coverage. First, she interviewed coach John Harbaugh as he entered the stadium. Had it not been for the power outage, we may have not seen Wolfson again on-air. Male sportscasters, primarily former players, gave the sideline reports throughout the game. However, during the power outage, Wolfson was asked to give a report about how the teams’ office equipment had been affected by the power outage. She reported that bench-side printers and telecommunication devices had been knocked out along with the lights throughout parts of the stadium. She wasn’t asked to give a report about the game from the sideline, but how fortunate they had a woman available to report on the state of office machines!

Overall, women played some fairly stereotypical roles in the Super Bowl football broadcast on CBS. Women are often portrayed as nurturers and supporters of their husbands’ and sons’ sporting endeavors. They are in touch with their emotions and thus ideal candidates for introducing personal, touching stories about athletes overcoming adversity. Female singers, musicians, and dancers often enhance the audience’s enjoyment of television programming. Two of the three performers helped elevate the viewers’ spirits and patriotism through song. The third entertainer merely raised the temperature and heart rate of the audience and demonstrated the definition of “eye candy” and sexualized female bodies. Sex sells, sex brings viewers to the show, and she filled that role during this broadcast. Missing from the broadcast, however, were close-up shots of the cheerleaders in their short skirts and pompons.  Missing was commentary about how the cheerleaders looked or how Beyonce shook her booty on stage. Perhaps this was a direct result of the flack ESPN received after Musburger provided commentary on how young boys need to learn to throw the football so they can bag a beauty like the Alabama quarterback did. Finally, CBS missed the boat by under-utilizing the experience, knowledge, and skills of its female on-air sports talent. Relegating Visser and Wolfson to introducing touchy-feely stories was a disservice to sports journalism and women’s presence in television sports.